- Alternate Universe
- Time Travel
“I never thought I would hear myself utter these words, but I need that report,” Jack said, hovering at the end of Sam’s lab table.
The lab itself was dark; the blinking signals of the machines, the computer screen, and a single lamp the only sources of light.
“Oh,” Sam murmured, “I, uh, I’ll have it for you first thing tomorrow and…”
“Carter, it is tomorrow,” Jack said.
Sam looked the computer clock and winced.
“Look, forget the report,” Jack took another step into the room and leaned on the edge of the table. “What’s going on with you? You haven’t tried to distract me with science babble and I have hadn’t had a disgruntled Weir complaining about you poking into her preparation plans for days.”
“She still blames me for the decision to wait on the Prometheus, doesn’t she, sir?” joked Sam.
“Well, for that and introducing the terrible twins.”
Sam grinned. John and Rodney had fallen into their friendship with surprising ease and they were just as troublesome as the reports she’d read.
“I still don’t know how you got McKay to agree to off world mission training,” Jack said.
“You agreed, sir,” Sam pointed out dryly.
Jack made a dismissive gesture. “And don’t think I don’t see you avoiding the question, Carter, so I’m going to ask you again.” He held her gaze. “What’s going on with you?”
For a second the urge to tell him was so strong, Sam thought she could taste the words on her tongue. She wrestled ‘I’m trying to change time’ back behind her teeth and sighed heavily. There was one guaranteed subject which would have Jack retreat.
“I broke up with Pete,” Sam said bluntly. She had broken up with Pete weeks before, just before their trip to the Antarctic.
Jack reared back before he caught himself and stopped, trying to act as though he hadn’t reacted at all. “You…” he swallowed and gestured vaguely at her, “why?” He caught himself again. “I mean, I know it’s not my business, Carter, but if you want to talk about it…like a friend to another friend.”
Her lips twitched and she almost smiled at his stumbling effort. “Pete and I…we weren’t on the same page about our relationship.” She bit her lip. “I’m sorry if I’ve been distracted.”
“Pish-posh, Carter,” Jack said waving a hand, “you distracted is worth more than most people.”
“Thank you, sir,” Sam said.
Jack nodded, his eyes landed on hers. “For what it’s worth, Carter, I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
The words were out of her mouth before she could reconsider them.
Jack stared at her; surprise written all over his face.
Sam took a breath. Carter had called him Jack. Not General. Carter had mourned Jack; grieved for Jack. She pressed her lips together. Maybe Sam could have this, maybe…
“I’ve been thinking about my future in the programme,” Sam began.
Jack blinked clearly taken aback by what he must consider a change of subject.
“Colonel Ryder is due to retire as the Head of R&D out at Area 51 before the end of the year,” Sam said. “I thought I might apply and transfer.”
Jack frowned heavily. “What about SG1?”
“Either Colonel Mitchell or Major Sheppard could be candidates for team lead,” Sam pointed out, “Captain Hailey would be back from maternity leave, and honestly, sir, both you and I know Teal’c and Daniel will likely seek to move on themselves at some point.”
Jack sighed and straightened. His dog tags glistened against his black BDU t-shirt. “Nevada, really?”
Sam felt her heart pick up speed. “The Head of R&D reports directly into General Hammond, sir.”
Jack’s eyes widened.
“I was hoping the change might mean I would have the opportunity to do things which I’ve wanted but have had to decline before,” Sam continued, holding his gaze, “like fishing.”
For a very long moment, possibly the longest moment of Sam’s life, Jack was silent.
“Fishing,” Jack repeated slowly, his eyes still on hers.
“Fishing,” Sam said again, trying to keep her breathing even.
Jack started smiling. “I highly recommend fishing.”
Sam couldn’t help smiling back at him. “So, I should look forward to an invitation?”
“You can look forward,” Jack said.
They grinned at each other inanely.
Jack cleared his throat. “Carter, if this plan of yours doesn’t pan out…”
“There’s always plan B, sir,” Sam assured him.
Jack smiled again, softer but just as sincere in its happiness. “Always.”
They stayed for a beat too long looking at each other before her monitor beeped at her and had Jack waving at it.
“Whatcha working on so late anyhow, Carter?” asked Jack.
Sam glanced at the document on the screen. “I was reviewing the information Agent Barrett sent on The Trust.”
Jack hummed. “Have they found the ‘anonymous’ source?” He mimed the quotation marks.
Sam’s lips twitched as she shook her head. “No, sir.” And since she was the anonymous source and it was the reason why she’d been so distracted for the past few days, she was very confident they wouldn’t be finding her.
“That reminds me,” Jack said, “the CIA are bringing in Alec Colson tomorrow. You up for questioning him? You worked with him, right?”
“I did,” Sam confirmed, “and I’m happy to help.” Although she couldn’t see a different resolution to essentially having to exile Alec again.
“Well, we should call it a night,” Jack recommended.
Sam nodded. “I’ll just finish up, sir.”
Jack returned her nod and stepped towards the door. “Carter?”
Sam looked up from her monitor and met Jack’s gaze. There was nothing but genuine curiosity shining in his brown eyes. “I just think it’s time, don’t you, sir?”
Jack nodded. “Get some rest, Carter.”
Sam watched as he departed and breathed out. She couldn’t quite believe she’d done it. Couldn’t quite believe she’d had the courage to do it. She couldn’t help the smile that flitted back to her lips.
She and Jack had a plan.
They had a plan for them, to become a them.
Changing time by comparison was a piece of cake, Sam considered with a grin.
“I can’t believe you just executed her!” Daniel protested, gesticulating with his cutlery. Beside him, the porthole showed nothing but the light of hyperspace.
Teal’c looked at him evenly. “She was a Replicator.”
“She was Sam!” Daniel argued.
“She was a Replicator with all of Sam’s intelligence, a super-computer for a brain, and not one ounce of her humanity,” John pointed out dryly. “Personally, I’m just glad we were able to stop her before we all became her minions.”
“You and Teal’c did a great job,” Sam said. She’d assigned both of them to dealing with the Replicator situation since she and Daniel had been tied up with the final preparations of the Atlantis expedition.
“But…” Daniel began again.
“I blew up a sun without being a Replicator, Daniel,” Sam added, scooping up more blue jello, “think what a Replicator version of me could have done.”
Daniel blinked. “OK, that’s a good point.”
“Hello, campers,” Jack dragged over another chair and took a seat next to Sam. He leaned in and whispered in a loud voice. “Is he still complaining about the Replicator?”
“Yep,” Sam confirmed, grinning.
“I can hear you,” Daniel muttered.
Jack straightened and waved at John. “You did good, Sheppard.”
“Thank you, sir,” John said laconically.
“Where’s your bumbling sidekick?” asked Jack.
“I think he sees himself more of Batman to my Clark Kent,” John replied with a smirk.
“Who are the rest of us then?” asked Daniel bemused.
“I don’t care?” said Jack.
“Colonel Carter is clearly Wonder Woman,” Teal’c said firmly.
“Thank you, Teal’c,” Sam said, laughing. “Speaking of secret identities, has the woman in the super-soldier suit said anything?”
Jack grimaced. “Lots of things. None of which are repeatable.”
“I can try talking with her,” suggested Daniel.
“Thank you,” Jack said sincerely. “You can see if she actually has an answer for trying to steal my ship.”
“Isn’t Colonel Pendergast in command?” asked Daniel with exaggerated innocence.
“Doesn’t it say General on my uniform?” Jack retorted.
“Actually, no,” Daniel shot back. He sighed. “I don’t know why we had to risk travelling to Atlantis by ship when we could have gated with the ZPM the Langford dig found last month.”
Sam kept her focus on the last of her food. She had written to Catherine and her old mentor had come through for her. Catherine had ensured one of her digs had found the ZPM and sent it to the SGC all without disclosing Sam’s own involvement.
“Because we need the ZPM to shield Atlantis?” Jack needled.
“We could have…”
“Major Sheppard,” Teal’c interrupted Daniel and Jack’s bickering brusquely, “I believe you were going to share the whereabouts of Doctor McKay.”
“I was?” John shot a look at Teal’c who stared back at him. “Right. I was.” He waved a tin mug in the direction of the door. “He’s in the engine room with the Asgard.”
“They make you nervous, Sheppard?” asked Jack.
“Any race which goes around naked makes me nervous, sir,” John said.
“Yeah,” Jack said, forking up more stew, “can’t really argue with that as much as I love their little grey butts.”
Daniel glanced around and frowned. “Is Elizabeth still locked in her room?”
“You don’t have to sound like she’s locked away,” Jack protested half-heartedly.
“Colonel Pendergast did confine her to her quarters,” Sam said dryly.
“I would have done the same,” Jack said, moping up the stew with some bread.
“She was only trying to help!” Daniel said. “She thought she was beaming victims of attack to safety.”
“Against orders!” Jack shot back. “We were trying to establish the situation which looked like a trap, smelled like a trap, and oh, yes; was a trap!”
“Her actions led to the super-soldier imposter beaming aboard this ship and endangering the mission to Atlantis, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c stated evenly. “As First Prime I would have executed her for such actions.”
“She was trying to do the right thing,” John countered, “she just, you know, went about it in all the wrong ways.”
“Which is why she’s confined,” Jack sighed. He picked up his mug and grimaced at the overly stewed and bitter taste of coffee.
Daniel sighed. “What’s going to happen to her? Is she going to keep her position on the expedition?”
Sam took a sip of her tea. Elizabeth had been appointed as Chief Diplomat and Head of Social Sciences to Atlantis after the information about the Wraith had been found in the outpost’s database, and the IOA had accepted that there would be a need to militarise the expedition.
“Commodore Carmichael’s considering his options,” Jack said simply. “It’s his call.”
His respect for his old friend Jerry Carmichael was evident. Sam liked the gruff British Naval Officer. He was a good man and he’d taken firm command of the Allied forces assigned to Atlantis. Sam had been impressed with his preparations and his calm authority. She wondered what impact such a different leader would have on the future of the Pegasus galaxy.
Daniel pushed his chair back. “I’m going to speak with the woman we captured.” He was gone before any of them could say anything else.
John looked over at her and Sam nodded. He took off after Daniel with a small nod at Jack.
“I still don’t see why I had to come,” Jack grumbled.
“I believe you were given no option by the President, O’Neill,” Teal’c teased.
Jack downed the rest of his coffee. “I really hope this isn’t a wild goose chase.”
“Daniel says Moros was the leader of the Atlantean Council,” Sam said, “it makes sense that if he did design a weapon to kill Ascended beings he might have abandoned the plans in Atlantis.”
At least she hoped it was there. She really didn’t want to go on an Arthurian quest and for Daniel to have Merlin or rather Moros downloaded into his head again. She had been thrilled to find mention of it in a journal Daniel had found on the database belonging to a council member called Janus.
“Well,” Jack sighed, “I have to go attend another meeting.”
“Sorry to hear that, sir,” Sam said insincerely.
“I should order the SG1 team leader to come with me,” Jack teased.
Sam just gazed serenely back at him.
“Fine,” Jack grumbled without heat, “I’ll go and suffer on my own.” He grinned at her and left.
Sam turned back from watching Jack leave and froze at Teal’c’s knowing look. “Uh, Teal’c…”
“Your secrets are safe with me, Colonel Carter,” Teal’c assured her.
Sam’s eyes twinkled at him. “Indeed.”
“Remind me again why we can’t just let this storm hit Atlantis!” Jack shouted, through the rain and the wind lashing at them.
Sam grimaced from underneath the grounding station she was repairing. “Because we need to find a way to defeat Anubis!”
“And remind me again why we’re out here getting soaked?” shouted Jack.
“Because you volunteered us?” Sam retorted. She considered her aggrieved tone. “Sir.”
“At least I didn’t volunteer for the farthest of the things!” Jack said defensively.
Sam’s lips curved into a semblance of a smile. “John didn’t volunteer.” Rodney had commandeered him.
The radio crackled.
“Sam?” Rodney’s voice.
Sam grimaced and pressed the button down to respond. “Almost done, Rodney.”
“Doctor Zelenka and I are done,” Commodore Carmichael confirmed, his gruff voice stuttering out of the radio. “We’re on our way to the control room.”
“Doctor Novak has successfully completed her task,” Teal’c confirmed.
“McKay and I are almost done,” John reported.
“Carter!” Jack’s voice was almost a whine.
“Done!” Sam declared. She radioed their progress and they started back to the control room. They were both grateful to rush inside and shut the bad weather out with a closed door.
“How soon can we get the shield up?” asked Jack.
“As soon as the grounding stations are all activated,” Sam said. “We’ll just need you or John to sit in the chair and monitor the power distribution.”
The radio crackled again.
“Code RED!” Carmichael’s voice shouted through the device. “CODE FUCKING RED!”
Sam and Jack exchanged an anxious look.
A Wraith Queen?!
Where had a Wraith Queen…
The underwater power station, Sam realised. Somehow their arrival on Atlantis had woken the Queen and caused her to come to the surface looking for food. What had changed to make that happen? She shook the thought away and took a firmer hold of her P90 as they started to run.
“Where are you, Carmichael?” asked Jack urgently.
There was nothing but a short burst of gunfire in response through the radio.
Sam’s heart pounded as they ran for the transporter-elevator. They were closest. They could try to get there in time before the Wraith fed; before she was able to get a telepathic message out to the rest of the Wraith…
“Prometheus,” Jack radioed them as they ran, “come in!”
“The storm is interfering with the signal!” Sam reminded him. “We can’t contact them and they won’t get a clear signal to beam us out!”
They threw themselves into the transporter.
Jack reviewed the map and stabbed a finger at the nearest location. They zapped away and emerged in a dark corridor.
It felt like every horror movie Sam had ever seen.
They both silently switched on their lights.
Jack signalled for her to take the left side of the corridor; he took the right. They jogged in tandem; shoulder to shoulder; their breaths quiet in the corridor. They were following the corridor back out to the elements and the grounding station.
Pounding footsteps coming towards them halted their progress. There was a turn in the corridor; they had no visibility.
Jack signalled their play.
Sam pressed herself close against the wall as Jack moved to get a better look, crouching and aiming. He suddenly dropped his stance and stood up, just in time to hook an arm around a running Novak who struck out at him.
Sam moved to help him wrestle Lindsey into submission. “It’s OK, you’re safe! You’re safe!”
“No,” Lindsey hiccupped through tears, gesturing back to where she had come from, “she’s relentless! He told me to run! He told me…”
Sam repositioned herself to cover Jack as he shifted to grasp Lindsey’s shoulders and forced her to look at him.
“He was right,” Jack said firmly, “and I’m going to tell you to do the same. Run back to the control room. Now.”
Lindsey nodded, sniffed loudly and took off again.
Jack and Sam exchanged another silent look. They both fell into position without words and started jogging again.
Sam covered Jack once they got to the exit. He triggered the door and they stepped into the wild rain.
Visibility was terrible.
Sam controlled her breathing and kept her aim firm as they began to walk.
The Queen came out of nowhere.
She barrelled into them and sent them flying before they could get a shot off. She went for Jack, launching herself while he was prone on the ground. He wrestled her back; grabbing hold of her arms to keep her from feeding on him.
Sam righted herself, tried to catch her breath and aimed. She peppered the back of the Queen with shot after shot.
The Queen screamed and turned…
Jack kicked her off him and went for his knife; he stabbed her in her neck…
Sam started firing again…
The Queen threw Jack further down the pier. She plucked the knife from her neck as though it was nothing more pesky than a splinter…she threw it at Sam who dived out of the way…
The Queen advanced again on Jack who was still, so still…
Sam put her gun down, took out her own knife and ran…
She jumped on the Queen’s back and grabbed her head, trying to force her neck back to cut her throat…
The Queen threw herself and Sam backwards…
Sam cried out as her back hit the hard metal of the pier…
The Queen shifted, turning herself, her arm…
Teal’c appeared from nowhere and threw the Queen from her.
Sam scrambled to safety as Teal’c engaged with the Queen in a fist-fight. She skidded back to where she’d left her gun, hoping she wasn’t too late…
The Queen grabbed Teal’c by the throat; her hand going back to strike him…
John appeared beside Sam; his gun aimed and firing…covering Sam and saving Teal’c as the Queen turnd to scream at them…
Sam got her own gun ready; fired again.
John started to move closer to the Queen as Teal’c punched the Queen in the face and got loose, dropping to the pier…
The Queen kicked the Jaffa aside and he went flying. She started to advance on John, but John never stopped firing…
John suddenly dropped his weapon and went for something in his vest. As the Queen reached for him, John evaded her grip but closed in and slapped something on her chest…his eyes meeting the Queen’s briefly before he ducked and ran…
“Take cover!” John yelled. “NOW!” He grabbed Teal’c and dragged him back behind a pylon.
Sam dived for cover behind a vent…
The Queen exploded in a ball of yellow and red fire…
Sam panted as she took stock. The Queen was dead. Bits of her body littered the pier, the rain already beginning to wash away the blood. Sam got to her feet and ran for Jack.
She crouched down beside him but he was starting to come to on his own.
“What hit me?” asked Jack grumpily.
Sam gently examined his head and tsked. “You bumped your head. You have a bump and graze back here.”
“Help me up, Carter,” Jack demanded.
She grasped his hand and together they staggered to their feet.
The rain was torrential. They barely made out the two figures stood further down the pier. Jack and Sam walked slowly over to them.
Her heart sank as she saw the decrepit body of Carmichael on the ground by their feet.
“He’s gone,” John shouted to them. “We need to get back inside and raise the shield! We’ll come back for the body.”
Jack nodded. Sam held onto him and he seemed to need her assistance to walk as he limped alongside her on their way back.
They passed the Queen’s remains and Sam grimaced as they stepped through blood and guts.
“C4?” Jack shouted to John.
John gave a brisk nod.
“It was Rodney’s plan, sir,” John said.
Jack looked disbelieving but said nothing. Sam couldn’t help smiling as they got back inside. The more things changed, she mused…
Sam sat down next to Jack around the oddly shaped table. She knew Jack hated it but it was all that they had been able to find. She watched as the others took their seats.
Daniel took his usual seat on the other side of Jack, Teal’c beside him, with Major Teldy, Captains Cadman and Kustov, and Sergeant Campbell arraigned themselves as best they could. John sat next to Sam, Rodney next to him while Doctor Carolyn Lam slid into the chair beside Rodney. Elizabeth walked in and frowned at the lack of seats, reluctantly taking the empty chair next to Carolyn.
“Carter, why don’t you start on how clean-up is going?” Jack prompted briskly.
“Clearing teams have been formed and are securing the control tower and surrounding towers. We’re prioritising medical, accommodation and lab space,” Sam noted dispassionately. “A temporary mess has been set-up. A small security team will stay on during night shift hours to man the control room and keep watch of the city’s sensors.”
“Any problems so far?” asked Jack, glancing over at the rest of the military contingent.
“This whole place is a booby trap waiting to happen,” Teldy spoke up, “we’re having to be careful and slow at clearing. Colonel Carter ensured each team has someone with the Ancient gene and that was a good call.”
“Careful and slow are my middle names,” Jack declared.
Sam ducked her head to hide her smile.
“Any logistical issues?” Jack continued. “McKay?” He turned to him with a hint of usual impatience.
Rodney sighed. “There’s a lot more wrong with the city than right. We’re not at full power with only one full ZPM and maintenance is going to be an issue. We’re focused right now on getting things operational and assisting the clearing teams.”
“What about the Stargate?” asked Elizabeth.
Sergeant Campbell shifted and Jack nodded at him to speak.
“The control room is functioning thanks to Major Sheppard and Doctor McKay,” Campbell confirmed, his accent giving away his Canadian heritage. “We’ve had two tests of the Stargate; no issues in establishing a viable wormhole.”
“Shouldn’t we start sending teams out?” asked Elizabeth. “We need to begin making alliances, especially if that Queen alerted the rest of the Wraith.”
“You’re right,” Jack answered, “we do need to establish a presence and to gather intelligence, but,” he held up a finger, “we need Atlantis secure first.”
“I just think,” Elizabeth began, leaning forward.
A knock interrupted her.
Lieutenant Ford entered. “Sir,” he stood in front of the General painfully awkward in the way of new officers, “there’s been an incident with Vala, I mean, Ms. Mal Doran. You’re needed to come straight away.”
“Oh, for crying out loud,” Jack muttered. He glared at Daniel who had vouched for the former Goa’uld host and started out of the room.
Sam followed him, trusting the rest of the team to follow after. They made quite a procession as they made their way through Atlantis to a lab.
Carter’s reports had not prepared Sam for the reality of Vala. She was a force of nature; a deceptively fragile looking, petite dark-haired woman. But she was a fighter and her eyes gave away an inner strength. Sam felt the tingle of naquadah in her blood; the only sign she’d been a host. Sam felt for her.
It wasn’t easy being an ex-host; to deal with the memories and lives left behind in memories which were not her own; Sam empathised on that basis alone. But Vala had also been bereft of support in the aftermath of being rescued by the Tok’ra. She’d had to survive on her own. Her mercenary attitude and cold hustler act had clearly been well-honed by circumstance.
When they entered the lab, Vala stood off to one side with two young Marines either side of her.
“Daniel!” Vala lit up at the sight of Sam’s team-mate.
Sam and Jack exchanged an amused look. Watching Vala and Daniel interact was great entertainment.
“Daniel, you have to tell them that…”
“What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything!” Vala proclaimed loudly. “I found her!” She pointed at the open stasis chamber.
Jack grimaced at the sight of the dead old woman lying there in a white shroud; there was a clear handprint on her chest.
“Is it just me or does that look like Elizabeth?” asked John tightly.
Sam knew it was Elizabeth, recalling the report with ease. She grimaced. She’d forgotten about another timeline Elizabeth being stasis.
“What?” Elizabeth pushed her way into the front of the gathering and stared at the woman. She swallowed hard.
“It does look, uh, like her,” Rodney said quietly.
“It is her,” Vala supplied with an inappropriate smirk, “it says so in that journal.” She motioned towards a green book on the centre console.
“I confiscated the book from Ms. Mal Doran’s possession when we found her in here,” Ford said.
“Doc?” prompted Jack.
Carolyn moved forward and Sam joined her. As Carolyn examined the body, Sam checked out the controls.
“Power was cut four or five weeks ago,” Sam noted. She sighed. No doubt the expedition being delayed had meant that there wasn’t enough power for the stasis to be maintained. She examined the logs carefully. “Sir, I believe that she has been in there for a very long time. Thousands of years. There’s a subroutine to wake her every three thousand years or so.”
Daniel had picked up the journal and had started to leaf through the pages.
Elizabeth frowned and crossed her arms. “Daniel, if this is me, shouldn’t I be the one to read her – my journal?”
“Actually, no,” Jack said before Daniel could answer. “This is an investigation into what happened here and if you are her,” he gestured at the chamber, “you’re too close to this.”
Daniel cleared his throat. “The journal suggests it is Elizabeth Weir.”
“She’s from another timeline where the city was flooded just after the expedition arrived,” Vala twirled her pigtail around a finger, “she and John Sheppard escaped into a small spaceship they found…”
“Puddlejumper,” John stressed loudly.
“…and somehow they travelled back to when the Ancients held the city,” Vala finished.
Jack sent her an exasperated look before he turned to Daniel.
“She’s right,” Daniel held up the book, “I need time to read this properly.”
“Cause of death seems obvious given the handprint it was a Wraith, but I’ll need to do an autopsy and run DNA profiles to verify,” Carolyn said, pushing her hands into the pockets of her white lab coat.
“Do we have another Wraith in the city?” asked Jack brusquely.
Sam shook her head and gestured for Rodney to reply.
“Uh, no?” Rodney tapped his tablet. “Our sensors say no?”
“It’s unlikely, sir,” Sam confirmed. “We’ve adjusted the sensors to pick up Wraith life signs.”
“OK,” Jack sighed. He stabbed a finger at Vala. “You are now in Daniel’s custody.”
“What?!” Daniel protested.
“She’s your problem now and if I have to handcuff you together, I’ll do it!” Jack said cheerfully.
Daniel glared at him.
Jack ignored him. “Finish reading the journal and confirm what happened to…to whoever she was. Doc, get on that autopsy.” He nodded over at Sam. “I want you and the rest of SG1 focused on why we’re here; Daniel can join you when he’s done. We need to find that weapon Moron created.”
“Moros,” Daniel corrected.
“Like I said,” Jack replied.
Sam refrained from rolling her eyes. It was going to be a long day.
To be continued.